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Archive for January, 2013

So There Was A Wind Chill Advisory Today . . .

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Snot-cicles.

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Categories: misc Tags:

Family Time, Beef Wellington, And A Happy Surprise!

My little sis, Sara, wanted a pepper grinder for her birthday this past summer.  So Lindz and I found her a nice one and gave it to her (it ended up being a couple months late, but we’re pretty chill about this kind of thing in my family).  Then my uncle Art discovered it.  Mom had written a note to remind herself to tell me that I needed to pick up one for Art.  Somewhere along the line, my nephew Cole found said note and added his name to it as well.  Christmas rolled around, so we gave a grinder to Art and another one to Cole.

Since Cole has been expressing an interest in cooking, Lindz and I decided to pick him up a cookbook as well.  The one Lindz selected was Jamie’s Food Revolution, by none other than one of my favorites, Jamie Oliver.  Personally, I like a couple of his other cookbooks better, but I couldn’t argue with Lindz’s logic.  This book is a spin off of the time he spent in Huntington, West Virginia, where he started a grassroots campaign to end obesity and to get people to eat healthier.  While working a bit with the community as a whole, he concentrated his efforts on the school lunch system because that is where he felt he could do the most good.  As a result, this cookbook is geared towards a novice in the kitchen and the recipes tend to be on the easier side.  Like I said, I couldn’t argue with her logic.

I ended up giving Cole the cookbook a day early because I told him that I was kidnapping him one day, so we could cook supper for people.  (I saved the pepper grinder for Christmas day and judging my how much he was bouncing around, I think he liked it).  The recipe I picked out was the Ground Beef Wellington.  Before we started, I told Cole that he was cooking and I was just there to make sure he didn’t burn the house down.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium Onion
  • 1 Carrot
  • 1 Celery Stalk
  • 1 Potato
  • 2 cloves of Garlic
  • 2 Portabella Mushrooms
  • Olive Oil
  • 4 sprigs of fresh Rosemary
  • large handle of frozen Peas
  • 1 large Egg
  • 1 pound Ground Beef
  • Salt and Pepper
  • AP Flour, for dusting
  • 2 sheets Puff Pastry

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Peel and chop the onion, carrot, celery, and potato into 1/4″ dice.  Finely grate the garlic.  Clean and roughly chop the mushrooms to about the same size.  Heat 2 Tbs of olive oil over medium-low heat in a large frying pan and place all the veggies in it.

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Yeah, probably should have split this between two pans.

Pick off the rosemary leaves, finely chop them, and add them to the pan.  Fry and stir the veggies for around 8 minutes, or until they soften and color lightly.  Add the peas and cook for another minute.  Put the veggies in a large bowl to cool completely.  Crack an egg into a cup and beat it until it is mixed.  Add the ground beef to the bowl with a good pinch of salt and pepper.  Add half of the beaten egg.  With clean hands, mix everything up.

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Cole working hard and getting dirty.  As it should be.

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Cole demonstrating the proper folding technique to mix the ground beef and veggies.

Lightly dust a clean work surface and rolling pin with flour.  Lay the puff pastry sheets one on top of the other.  Roll out the pastry so it is roughly 12″ x 16″.  Dust with flour as needed.  Turn the pastry so that the long edge is towards you and place the beef mixture along this edge.  Mold the beef mixture into an even log.  Brush the edges of the pastry with some of the beaten egg.

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Here Cole is demonstrating how to brush on egg wash to the edges of the dough.

Roll the beef mixture up in the pastry until it’s completely covered.  Squeeze the ends together.  Dust a large cookie sheet with flour and place the Wellington on top.  Over all of the Wellington, brush with the remaining beaten egg.  Bake in the preheated oven for an hour until golden brown.

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Glossy and fresh out of the oven.

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Not too bad for a twelve year old.

Since we were cooking for a fairly large crowd, we did a double recipe.  Also, since I am apparently inept at finding puff pastry, I just used the croissant dough in the paper tubes.  Cole and I did have a minor argument about who got to pop them open.  I thought this recipe was a bit under-spiced, but it was well received by everyone.

And now for the surprise!

Chell tried out a different family recipe for coffee cake.  She said it was an easier dough to work with, but she liked the crumbles from the original.  I would have to agree with her on the topping.  These were a bit doughy instead of a nice sugary consistency.  The new recipe had cinnamon in it, which wasn’t a bad addition, but I prefer it without.  But most importantly, she made it with a poppy seed filling!  And even better, she sent a poppy seed one home with Lindz and me!!!

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Don’t take a drug test after eating this. Seriously. False-positive. Mythbusters proved it.

Vive la Crappies!

Earlier this past summer, I “liberated” some crappies out of Mom’s freezer and fried them up.  (Relax, she told me to take them.)  Well, I finally got around to writing about it.

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It’s pronounced “craw-PEAS.”

I didn’t do anything fancy with them.  I was just trying to use up some pantry supplies that I’ve had forever, namely some corn meal flour and panko bread crumbs.  The only seasoning that I added to each was a bit of salt and pepper.

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The panko bread crumbs are on the left, which, by process of elimination, means the corn meal flour is on the right.

Once they went through an egg bath and a dip in whichever dry mix, I just pan fried them in some oil.

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I know I’ll get some grief from my Aunties about this (they like to remind me heart disease runs in the family). But I think this sight ranks right up there with some of Rembrandt’s paintings.

The corn meal ones turned out quite exquisitely.  The panko ones, well, not so much.  The batter ended up mostly falling off.  The taste of what was left on was nice, there just wasn’t a whole lot there.  Fortunately the fish stood up well on its own, so it really wasn’t a complete loss.  What I should have done is pulverize the panko crumbs so they were fine like the corn meal.  Lesson learned.

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As you can see for yourself, the corn meal crappies turned out beautifully. And the panko crappies, well, like I said, not so much.

Categories: family, recipes, supper Tags: , ,

This Entertained Me For Way Longer Than I Would Care To Admit

In the latest issue of Cook’s Illustrated (Jan/Feb 2013), they had an article on “Foolproof Soft-Cooked Eggs.”  I’ll save the guts of the article for your own perusal (it’s a good read).  The gist of the article is that the secret is to steam the eggs rather than boil them.

CI did test batches from one to six eggs, and I cooked two and four egg batches.  All of my eggs turned out perfectly.  The only word of caution that they give is to make sure that the eggs have no cracks in them.  I found out the hard way why.  Apparently I didn’t see a hairline crack on one egg and I discovered half of one egg “boiled” out into the pan by the time everything cooked.  The rest of the egg was still edible, but half of it was gone.

You can use this method on one to six eggs, from large through jumbo without altering the timing.

Bring a 1/2″ of water to a boil in a medium sized sauce pan over medium-high heat.  Gently place the refrigerator temperature eggs into the pan.  Cover and cook for exactly 6 1/2 minutes.  Remove the cover and run cold water over the eggs for an additional half a minute.  Remove the eggs from the pan and serve.

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Thermodynamics doing its magic to fill my tummy.

It’s surprisingly easy to peel soft-boiled eggs.  Give the broad end a good rap on a hard, flat surface and peel as usual.  I recommend a quick rinse to get any random bits of shell off.

These eggs turned out beautifully and like I said, this entertained me for way longer than I would ever care to admit.

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Can you see why I was enthralled for a whole afternoon?

Spending Some Quality Time Browsing The Gas Station

One of the jobs that we worked on this past summer was just down the block from a gas station.  Sooo, I ended spending more lunch breaks (read money) than usual eating out.  I found a couple of interesting items.

First up is the Mystery Meat:

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It’s usually not a good sign when you can’t even identify the meat particles.  Which probably means it’s the dreaded “pink slime.”

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This was supposed to remind me what flavor I got. Um, yeah.
Pretty sure it was the Cheesy Buffalo Ranch.

The Mystery Meat, a.k.a. Cheesy Buffalo Ranch Roller Bite, wasn’t too bad.  It was a bit heavy on the buffalo sauce flavor.  Come to think of it, that was the only flavor that I remember.  Eh.  I’d eat it again.

The one item that I was very thrilled to find was the Wasabi and Soy Sauce flavored almonds.  They were everything I had hoped for.  Spicy enough that I had to pause every handful or so.  With a nice hint of salty soy sauce in the background.

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If you’re really nosy and can decipher my chicken scratchings, on the right, you can read what we did the previous day.

A Motley Autumnal Conglomerate

I’ve been digging through my backlog of photos and I’ve found a bunch of single random ones that more-or-less fall into the category of “fall harvest.”  So this is going to be a bit of a hodgepodge of a post.  (yeah, somebody’s gotten into the thesaurus again)

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The first snowfall of the year.  The Cities were eerily quiet that day.

Throughout summer and fall, Lindz was making semi-regular stops at the local farmer’s market and on one trip she picked up some gorgeous sweetcorn.

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Still working on “prettyfying” some of my photos.

The most consistent way I’ve found to cook sweetcorn is to get a pot of water boiling, add the corn, and let it come back up to a full boil.  I then let it cook for about a minute and then pull it out.  This way the corn is still nice and juicy but doesn’t taste raw either.

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Juuust about ready to be pulled out, buttered, lightly salted, and devoured.

I think it was the same trip that Lindz also picked up some delightful green beans.  These I steam for about five minutes (checking often) so they come out nice and al dente.  Toss with a pat of butter and a pinch each of salt and pepper.

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I love green beans, even if most people cook them to mush.

I enjoy sausages anytime that I can get my grubby little hands on them, but for whatever reason, I always think of them as cold weather comfort food.  I think they are best with either a spicy mustard or some horseradish (preferably homemade).

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A Hobbit approved snack. Perfect for second breakfast.

My boss, Steve, has really been into canning the last couple of years.  This year he was working on perfecting his pickle recipe.  He found a spicy pickle mix (I think it’s this one) at Mill’s Fleet Farm and gave me a jar to try.  It definitely packed a nice punch of jalapeno with a good and crisp pickle.  It was one of those nice burns that wasn’t too overpowering, but stayed with you for some time.  The more you ate, the more intense it got too.

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They look innocent, but they will grab your tastebuds and mistreat them in a way that will have you coming back for seconds. And thirds.

Mom picked up a half bushel box of peaches this fall and make most of it into jam.  It didn’t last very long once Lindz and I opened it and got a taste.

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Yes, Mom has been reusing jars for canning and pickling long before it was in vogue.

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You can just taste the peachy peachness of the peach jam, can’t you?

Along with the usual jellies and jams that Mom made, she also did some salsa this year.  Generally, I’m not a fan because the flavor usually seems dull and overcooked.  Probably the same thing.  This primarily applies to store-bought salsas.  I prefer a nice pico de gallo (fresh uncooked salsa) any day of the week.  However, the recipe that Mom used has me hesitating on my anti-salsa stance.  It was a bit sweet (from the tomatoes), a bit spicy (just enough to round out the flavor), and a whole lot of tomatoey goodness.

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Mmm, salsa. Cha-cha-cha!

And now for something completely different: Oreos.

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I’m a die-hard fan of the original Double Stuff, but these are surprising good. And a nice change to throw into the mix.

Ice Fishing and God’s Twisted Sense of Humor

Due to a screw-up in the work schedule, we ended up with a couple of unexpected days off this past week.  What does one do in Minnesota in the middle of winter when it’s 15 degrees out and a wind chill of 5?  Go ice-fishing, of course.

My boss (Steve), a co-worker (Clint), and I decided that we needed to go sit on some ice for a day and see what happened.  Since the St. Croix River is only a handful of miles from Steve’s place, it made sense to find a spot right off of Bayport.  Clint, being an avid fisherman, knew the area pretty well, so that sealed the deal.

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This is what I stared at for 7 hours.

Clint and I started the day on the Wisconsin side of the river, but we had absolutely no luck.  By the time Steve showed up, we were desperate and ready to move.  So we called our friend Matt (a fanatical fisherman) to see where we should go.  The short of it was we were on the wrong side.  We were good on the north and south, we just needed to be on the west bank instead of the east.  In fact, even before I got my line in the water, Clint pulled up the first fish of the day: a nice sized smallmouth bass.

Of course this got everyone excited, and in fishing terms means that we didn’t see another fish for an hour.

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For the longest time the was the whole of our catch.

After a few beers, one feels nature’s call.  Basically, as soon as I was indisposed, both Clint and Steve reeled in a nice crappie each.  While excited that we finally got more fish, I was beginning to feel left out.

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Stretching my legs, grabbing a beer, and getting out of a 5′ cube crammed with 3 guys.

After several fish nudging my bait, but never taking it, one finally started pulling on the line.  I quickly set the hook and started cranking it in.  Everyone was confused as my “catch” came up to the hole.  Once it popped out, there really wasn’t any less confusion.  Then it slowly dawned on all of us that I just pulled up a mudpuppy.  Or in slightly more scientific terms an aquatic salamander.  Considering that a large one will measure 13″ to 16″, the 10″ one I caught at least was decent sized.

So, not only did I get dubbed with the “good luck leak” moniker, I also got the “ugliest fish” award.  But as Steve pointed out, I didn’t get skunked.

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The ugliest thing I have ever reeled in.

I did sort of redeem myself later when I pulled in a big crappie on Steve’s line, but it still felt a little bittersweet.

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My “share” of the catch.

All in all, it was a decent trip.  Spent some relaxing BS time with my co-workers, got out and enjoyed nature, and even brought home a couple of fish for supper.  The grand total for the day was 2 smallmouth bass, 4 crappies, and a mudpuppy that got thrown back.

Oh, and by the way, the crappies were quite tasty.  I just gutted, beheaded, and scaled them before throwing them in a pan of hot oil.  They didn’t even need any seasoning.  Although I probably would have been better off filleting them, but I didn’t have the energy to do it.  I’ll consider it for the next time.